Browsing Archives for Garden

The Flowers That Don't Need Me

August 26th, 2009

I planted some sunflowers in a small corner of my garden.  I did this because someone suggested it right here… on my blog.  

I thought it was such a good idea.  I bought a few packets of seeds… mammoth sunflowers, and red sunflowers, and ‘normal’ sunflowers… if there are ‘normal’ sunflowers.  After I planted the small corner of my garden, I still had seeds left over, so I planted some by the barn, and then I planted some by the house, and then I scattered a few down by the pond.  I could water the ones in the garden and the ones by the house but the others had to fend for themselves.




Then I took a couple of packets of Zinnia seeds and planted them in the garden, and by the barn and down by the pond too.

The Zinnias mostly had to fend for themselves as well.




And well… they did.

They grew and they bloomed and they did just fine.




Mother Nature took care of them.  

I may have watered them when they were especially young and helpless, but after that, they were on their own.






They have done beautifully.  

They don’t really seem to need me at all.

I have to tell you… that is not a bad trait in a flower at all.

Except that I would like to think that I was somehow a part of it…

Well… I guess I did poke the seeds in the dirt.

And I did look out for them occasionally.

And I did rejoice when they bloomed.

For the truly rare flower…

This is all they need.

Tasting the Tomato Test Patch

August 23rd, 2009

As a part of this year’s garden, I planted a tomato test patch.  I brought home several varieties of the tomato plants that we sell at the Garden Center where I work so that I could discover their differences and also so that next Spring, I might be able to actually answer a few tomato questions when a customer asks me one.  





Unfortunately, I also grew a stand of tomatoes from seed, and I am sorry to tell you that my baby tomato seedlings became the children of my heart and I nurtured and tended them with a great amount of care, while my tomato test patch, which I came to refer as my ‘tomato step children’, were not given the love that they deserved because they came into my life half grown and I never did bond with them the way I should have.  Yet even with my neglect, the plants produced a nice harvest of tomatoes.  The one on the far left end is one of my seed tomatoes.  It is a Burpee Big Boy Hybird.  Right next to it is a Burpee Big Boy from a Garden Center plant. Going down the line you can see two Better Boys, an Heirloom German Johnson, a Beefmaster and a Jetstar.  






On Saturday, I invited a few friends over for a tomato canning lesson from my friend Sarah.  






But before Sarah could get started,everyone had to sample the tomatoes from my test patch.  




Because who can resist a food sampling?  









Just like I do with my family, I forced them to write down their impressions of each tomato they tasted.  I will say that these girls were much more agreeable than my children when it came to writing down their thoughts on the various tomatoes.  I did not have to threaten them with taking away their computer time, or ground them from the Wii, or send them to their rooms or anything!     






Here are Angie and Nancy discussing the subtle differences between a Jetstar and a Burpee Big Boy.






Here is Melissa with a Beefmaster (I think).  





And here is what everyone thought about the various tomatoes…







Angie – Tastes like a tomato… full flavor, a little mushy.

Nancy  - Traditional flavor, texture is mushy.

Jenny  - Rich meaty flavor

Rechelle – Full bodied, rich, yummy.




Burpee Big Boy…

Nancy – Not full flavored

Melissa – More seeds, less sweet

Rechelle – More acid, more water

Angie – Flat

Jenny – Tough, chewy, plain

Sarah – Not very flavorful




Heirloom German Johnson…

Angie – Less flavor

Melissa – Less flavor, ends blandly

Nancy – Tastes like it’s fermented

Jenny – Nasty, off flavor

Sarah – Less sweet

Rechelle – Weird finish, fleshy


Better Boy…

Angie – More bite to it

Melissa – A little bland, not sweet.

Nancy – Tangy (of sorts) less flavor

Jenny – Deep flavor



Burpee Big Boy Hybrid…

Nancy – Firm texture

Melissa – Sweet (my favorite)

Rechelle – Sweet

Jenny – Sweet, rich, deep, my favorite

Angie – Sweet

Sarah – Balanced and delicious, my favorite


Nancy – My favorite (so far)

Melissa – Very sweet, not as firm, great flavor

Angie – Good flavor

Rechelle – Watery, bland

Jenny – Chewy, bland

Sarah – I don’t taste much here.



The Burpee Big Boy Hybrid was a favorite among almost everyone, but I really like the Beefmaster the best.  The German Johnson Heirloom was a very strange tomato.  It’s fruits were more pinkish than red and it was also far less resistant to bugs and disease.  You can really see the advances made in tomatoes right here in this little tomato test.  The heirloom variety would probably do just fine if it had a little more care than I gave it, but it performed very poorly in my tomato test patch compared to the the Burpee Hybrid which not only produced beautiful tomatoes under severe neglect, it also tasted great.  So much for the quaint heirlooms!  




On Monday, I hope to have a tomato canning story up.

As you can see, canning those tomatoes was a brutal task and we didn’t have any fun at all!

When I got home from our trip to Hell and back, I discovered ten thousand tomatoes ready to be picked in my garden.

My mom had done a great job of keeping up with the garden and everything else was picked clean, but in the few days interim between her departure from our house and our arrival back home, they had all ripened to an obscene and undeniable bright rosy red.




I picked them and brought them in the house and then I sat them on the table and stared at them helplessly for several days.


My one and only canning experience was a pickling disaster and I was terrified to try it again.  



Eventually the situation became dire.  The fruit flies grew so dense I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and I could not bear to watch all of my hard work growing those tomatoes rot away on my kitchen counters.  

I e-mailed my friend Sarah and begged her to come over and teach me how to can.  She was at work and then she had to go help with VBS and then she was leaving town and I don’t think that Sarah really cares about me at all.  I guess I need to write another venom filled essay called ‘I Wish I Had A Friend Named Sarah Who Would Drop Everything and Come Over and Can My Tomatoes For Me Right This Very Minute!’





But Sarah did e-mail me instructions on how to freeze tomatoes.  It sounded very hard and I didn’t think I could really do it, but I thought I would give it a try.





First I had to remove the skins.  I placed the tomatoes in boiling water for one minute.





Then I removed them with a slotted spoon and placed them in an ice-bath.







I have always heard of this magical procedure, but I have to be honest with you, I was absolutely certain it would not work for me.  

But it did!  

The fates did not conspire against me!

The skins just slid right off.

It was like a miracle!

The miracle of the sliding tomato skins!

I removed the skins, cut the tomatoes in half, sort of glopped out as many seeds as I could and then I placed the whole sorry mess in a large soup pot, added some basil, salt, and garlic and cooked it down for an hour or so.  After that I poured the reduced tomato carnage into a plastic freezer bag and that was that!





I still had nine thousand tomatoes to go!


I didn’t really enjoy peeling those tomatoes.  It was gross.  I had read about roasting tomatoes somewhere, so I got online and found a few recipes and thought I would give that a try…




I cut off the stem end of my tomatoes and then cut them in half.





I scooped out the seeds and placed the gutted tomato carcasses on a buttered cookie sheet.






I brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled on basil, salt and garlic and let them roast at 375 degrees for an hour.










Drew and I then slipped the skins off of the roasted tomatoes and placed the pathetic skinned tomato beasties in a bowl and mashed them up a bit.

For some reason this was less gross than the boiled tomatoes.  I have no idea why.



I placed the roasted, mashed tomatoes in a carefully labeled bag, and took a blurry dim photo of it to post on my blog.

For the normal person who might have stumbled on this blog in search of a tomato roasting recipe, you may skip the dim, blurry photo part.  

I froze most of the roasted tomato sauce, but I saved a bit to try right away.


And then I made some eggplant parmesan with eggplant and fresh roasted tomato sauce from my own garden… and it was delicious!  I hope to get that fascinating story up very soon… but I would strongly advise against holding your breath.

Only eight thousand more tomatoes to go.